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Beautiful Creatures – Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl: A Review

May 19, 2013

beautiful creatures book cover

When I went out on a whim and bought all four of Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl’s Caster Chronicles books (the same whim that led to my buying Stephenie Meyer’s latest travesty, The Host, actually), I’d already heard some mixed things about them. Some people loved them, some people didn’t, and I wasn’t really sure what I’d think. I thought they sounded like the kind of thing I would enjoy – after all, what girl, whatever age, doesn’t love a bit of supernatural teen drama? – but I’ve always held a bit of a snobby apprehension when it comes to books written in dual authorship, so I really didn’t know, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to give at least Beautiful Creatures a shot.

The dual authorship, it turned out, wasn’t a problem at all for me. I’ve found in the past that the voices of the two authors often conflict, so you can tell who wrote which bit after a while, and books written jointly by two people tend to be a bit on the trashy side, but that wasn’t the case in Beautiful Creatures. While of course it’s not exactly high literature, it was perfectly readable and enjoyable and the narrative voice was entirely joined up – if it didn’t say so on the cover, you’d never have a clue that more than one person contributed to the writing of this.

One of the things I found most refreshing about Beautiful Creatures was that it comes from a male perspective. There seems to be a bit of a trend in this genre for the protagonists and narrators to be young women (probably because most of the people who read these types of books are also young women), and that can get a bit “same”y after a while and you start to recognise which writers are basically ripping other writers off (also known as fan fiction). Having a male protagonist and narrator tips all that on its head. It’s still quite formulaic and cliched and full of things that don’t happen in real life in that Ethan is your typical popular basketball jock, who feels like because he reads “for fun”, he doesn’t quite fit in with his friends, and then falls for a girl who definitely DOESN’T fit in and pursues her because she’s different, even if it means he ostracises himself from his friends because they won’t accept her. I can’t remember ever seeing one of the popular sporty guys at my school fall for a girl from the goth crowd, but I guess it’s fulfilling a dream and giving a lot of young goth girls hope that the super-hot popular sporty guys will actually notice them. You just have to have mysterious supernatural abilities first. Nevertheless, having a male protagonist and narrator is definitely a good thing.

Plot-wise, I think I’ve more or less covered that off when I called it “formulaic and cliched”. Garcia and Stohl seem to know exactly how much information to give you and how much to hold back to keep enough mystery going that you want to keep reading, not just to the end of Beautiful Creatures but also onwards into Beautiful Darkness and the latter half of the quadrilogy. At the end of Beautiful Creatures there are still a few plot mysteries that you don’t know the full story of, such as Ethan’s mother’s “accident” and what happened to Lena’s father, which have bothered me enough to jump straight into Beautiful Darkness, but hopefully won’t be strung out across the whole series.

Overall, Beautiful Creatures is an alright book. I wouldn’t call it fantastic, but it’s an easy read, with decent length chapters that mean you can pick it up and put it down quite easily, it’s enjoyable, and captivating enough that I’ve gone straight onto Beautiful Darkness already. If you’re into your supernatural fiction, especially young adult stuff, then it’s worth a read.

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